When Mt. Laurel native Danielle Beauchemin landed in South America, she was without water, shelter and clothes. She was truly living naked and afraid.
Being cast in the Discovery Channel’s reality television series “Naked and Afraid” was never a goal for Beauchemin. Even after an earlier appearance on the show in 2014, the wilderness survivor returned for the program’s two hour season premiere on Aug. 1, an episode called “Baskets and Bullet Ants.”
After experiencing 21 days in the wild and watching the final product unfold in front of her eyes, Beauchemin looks back at her experience as educational.
“The first one I ever did was the 21 days in Colombia,” she recalled. “A couple of months later, that’s when I did the 40 days that was also in Colombia, but a completely different part of the country.”
In her third run, Beauchemin traveled to the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador and had one survival tool, magnesium fire starter. It came in handy since it was monsoon season, a reversing of wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation.
Due to the severe thunderstorms and continuous wetlands, Beauchemin knew it would be nearly impossible for a fire to start, but magnesium helps light wet material and can contain heat.
Beauchemin would order the importance of resources as shelter first, then water, fire and food. But in her most recent adventure, she found one of the most challenging parts was securing shelter because it was storming every day.
“The shelter is the most important thing for us, because if we don’t have a dry area, we can’t have a fire,” Beauchemin explained. “If we don’t have a fire, we can’t boil water and food.”
When searching for food, Beauchemin’s partner Fernando Calderon created traps to catch animals, while she, as a vegetarian, looked for plants and fruits as food sources.
“I stayed true to my beliefs and didn’t kill any animals,” Beauchemin noted. “I was showing other people that you can do this as a vegetarian or a vegan. You can coexist with the animals and not have to make it all about eating them.”
Another challenge was the inability to properly prepare before the mission. Despite cast members having prior survival knowledge, the producers of the show would only identify the country where they would go. So Beauchemin took matters into her own hands and explored exotic grocery stores in the South Jersey area before departing to educate herself on properly cooking foreign plants and fruits.
But when it comes down to it, the key to show survival can depend on one’s partner and mentally pushing through, according to Beauchemin.
“I would say in any survival challenge, it’s 90 percent your mind,” she explained. “It’s the way you look at things and your perception of the situation.”
After graduating from Lenape High School in 2007, Beauchemin went on to attend Rowan College of Burlington County. After earning an associate’s degree, she decided to take a break from school.
Exploring the unknown has always been a passion for Beauchemin, and while pursuing an online bachelor’s degree a couple of months later at Wilmington University in North Carolina, she found jobs in Maine and Alaska as a wilderness guide and was certified as a wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
It wasn’t until 2016 that Beauchemin decided to move her life to Iceland and pursue a master’s degree in science environments and natural resource management at the University of Iceland, which she completed in 2018.
Besides appearing on “Naked and Afraid,” Beauchemin is an adjunct professor at Rowan, where she teaches courses on climate change and animal agriculture, as well as human anatomy and physiology.
Having the opportunity on “Naked and Afraid” is one Beauchemin will never forget, and she plans to continue sharing her experiences through an educational outlet.
“I’ve been teaching, I go to wilderness medicine conferences and I visit different Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops,” she said. “I’m happy with that lifestyle.”